The journey to this large, family-run hotel-restaurant, on a little hill, next to a gracefully ornate pilgrimage church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is a popular one. Its interior is divided into a number of cozy rooms, which during our visit were filled with families enjoying a leisurely Sunday lunch.

The friendly atmosphere, interesting menu and freezing temperatures outside encouraged us to settle in for a long, multi-course meal.

A selection of small breads was immediately set on the table with two spreads; one a herbed cream cheese and the other a flavorful Schmaltz.

We began by splitting a mostly fine mixed appetizer plate of cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto, terrine of game, smoked trout in aspic, chunks of delicious smoked duck breast, and a Parmesan-sprinkled venison carpaccio which, unfortunately, was still frozen. Next came a pair of wild soups: a rather bland game broth - though with delicious flour dumplings - and a flavorful wild mushroom (Schwamml or Pfifferling) soup.

One main course, tender duck with red cabbage and sliced bread dumplings, maintained the wild theme but was sadly marred by a too-salty sauce that masked much of the ducks' flavor. A hearty vegetarian dish, baked spinach noodles topped with cheese and a ladle of homemade tomato sauce received better marks.

A dessert plate of dark and white chocolate mousse, attractively served with a dusting of powdered sugar and fresh fruit, was enough for two.

From the Kirchenwirt's extensive wine cellar, which has been praised by The Wine Spectator, we sampled three imported reds and three Austrian white wines from Styria, the Wachau and Burgenland.

Although the restaurant was full to overflowing, the service was prompt and friendly.

Accommodations in comfortable and well-furnished rooms are also available upstairs. The Kirchenwirt is a Best Western affiliate.

One strange feature—at least in the men's room, we feel compelled to mention—is the small television screens carrying CNN in the walls above the urinals.

Contact: Kirchenwirt, Kirchplatz 9, 8044 Graz, tel +43/0316/39 11 12-0, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Rating: Quality 12/20, Value 12/20